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Football: Training camp preview — Special teams

With the first training camp practice set for tomorrow evening, we’ve come to the final position preview. Stay tuned tomorrow evening for a full report off the first day.

WHAT WE KNOW: The Bears needs some serious improvement in this area (except at punter). Special teams coach Jeff Genyk and head coach Jeff Tedford need to take a long look at the placekicking situation during camp. Senior Giorgio Tavecchio has improved his kickoffs and looks to be a strong candidate to continue to handle those duties. But as we know, he’s been inconsistent on his field goals. With a potentially dominant defense and a lot of questions on offense, the Bears could find themselves in a lot of close games this season. That means there could be more than one game that comes down to a last-second field goal. Cal needs to find the guy who can win the game in those situations, whether it be Tavecchio or Vince D’Amato. The Bears are set with Ray Guy Award candidate Bryan Anger at punter, but what about returning punts? Jeremy Ross is gone, and he did a terrific job last season replacing Syd’Quan Thompson. Wide receiver Keenan Allen is a leading candidate to take over, but the coaching staff could be hesitant to increase his workload even more with their plans to involve him in the offense as much as possible. Allen also returned kickoffs last year and could be in line to do it again, but speedster Kaelin Clay is also a top candidate there.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: How Genyk is going to improve the coverage teams. Both kickoff coverage and punt coverage got worse from the 2009 season last year, and that’s supposedly what got former special teams coordinator Pete Alamar fired. The Bears have a lot of good young athletes that may be suited to play special teams this year before they start contributing on offense or defense.

IN SUMMATION: With the way the Bears are composed, special teams may be as important as it’s been in recent memory for Cal. Again, the Bears figure to play in a lot of low-scoring, close games, so field position and the kicking game will become paramount. Other than Anger, there are a lot of questions to answer during camp.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • milo

    Yup, last season a few made field goals and/or a good field goal kicker could have eked out 2 more victories, possibly UO and UW…and a winning season.

    Cal’s Defense pretty much shut down Oregon last game…just didn’t have any offense to score. UO was dominant strong but a FG by Cal would have won it. Cal’s D was great but not super-human.

    The Bears should let Anger drop kick FGs from 40 yards. Otherwise try anyone new. If we’re going to suck at a position, might as well develop depth/talent in the process. Audition the soccer team.

  • robert lerma

    I concur with the above. Our field goal kicker has been given ample opportunity to prove himself and it has been disappointment after disappointment. This game is based on performance and Coach Tedford is keen to sit other position players for not producing. Why he gives this guy a pass is beyond me. There is no reason that we should have defeated U of O, U of W and U of A last year. We were in position to win those games and this guy failed all three exams.

  • Raf

    Tedford isn’t giving anyone a “pass.” Both guys had game-time opportunities and both were equally terrible. If Tedford really wants to keep his job he’d realize that his future likely rests with a solid kicker (and QB obviously); a guy who can close tight games. He needs to balls out recruit the best kickers in the nation. (He’s recruited top QB talent to no avail.)

  • Crawford

    Hey Robert,

    “This game is based on performance and Coach Tedford is keen to sit other position players for not producing. Why he gives this guy a pass is beyond me”

    Who els is he supposed to put in?

  • RandyBear

    Why even mention D’Amato’s name? It’s clear that once JT chooses a guy, it’s going to be that guy NO MATTER how bad it gets! Anyone remember Joe Ayoob?

    Tavecchio’s great and really consistent when it’s a +/- 4 touchdown game. But when the chips are down???? Forget it! Don’t hold your breath, be prepared to ride the Tavecchio horse this year regardless of how many he misses. At least D’Amato will get a Berkeley degree.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Completely disagree with your assessment that the punter, Bryan Anger, needs no improvement. Anger is a good punter with a very strong leg, capable of some great punts. However, a typical game for Anger is that he booms three punts 50-70 yards, and then shanks one 30 yards off the side of his foot. Happens just about every game. And if he happens to shank that one punt when kicking from his own end zone, the Bears are in deep trouble. There have been games where Anger shanks two punts. I’d rather have him hit 5 punts for 40-45 yards, than have him hit 4 punts 65 yards and then shank a punt that hurts us. He needs more consistency, before he can be mentioned in the same breath with Ray Guy.

  • GOGO Bears

    Randybear: Ayoob got benched before his junior season was over — Steve Levy came in to play and even beat the Furds. And the next year, Ayoob was done. So how is that NO MATTER?

  • Bob

    Ayoob is now a tour guide at Anchor Steam Brewery in SF.

  • Bob

    He is very personable. Seems like a good guy.

  • GOGO Bears

    Joe Ayoob is definitely a good guy. I thought he did a great job handling the firestorm he went thru. He did lose his way — it got to him and he couldn’t crawl out that well of mistakes on the field — but in real life Joe handled himself well. I saw Justin Vedder refuse to give a kid who asked him for an autograph after a loss — and not just refuse but told the kid to get away from him while using a profanity. Steve Levy moaned a lot when he didn’t get consideration his senior year, and we all know about the glass “accidentally” thrown in the bar. Joe didn’t get a rep for sexual assault like U$C qb’s do on a regular basis. He didn’t cheat or take money. He tried and he failed and he held his head up and kept trying. He graduated and got a degree.

    He is one of the most good guys you can meet and he kept that goodness while all around him were yelling and screaming and calling for his head.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Joe Ayoob was a very successful spread quarterback at CCSF. He comes to Cal, and Tedford forces him to be a pocket passer. He showed running skills right a way, buyt Tedford never used him in a spread offense to take adavantage of those skills.

    Ayoob’s competition, Nate Longshore, was a pure drop back pocket passer, who couldn’t run a lick. What does Tedford do with him? He tries to make him into a spread quarterback, where a running QB is almost essential.